Negotiations on the WTO's Doha round have collapsed in acrimony after the US refused to give ground on farm subsidies, and almost certainly will not be completed this year. Which, given that Bush's blanket authority to negotiate trade deals expires soon, may mean that it will not be completed until sometime in 2009, if at all; given the parochial interests of the US Senate, no WTO deal would survive ratification, and countries would be foolish to adjust policy based on toothless promises from a President who cannot back up his decisions. This means that the Doha round is now all but dead - or if not dead, "somewhere between intensive care and the crematorium" (to quote the Indian representative).
This is bad news for New Zealand, and not exactly good news for the world's poor, but I'm not entirely upset by it either. While a rules-based, multilateral trading regime which allows poorer nations free access to rich nations' markets is absolutely vital to lifting the poor out of poverty, such a regime must be fair - and what the US was proposing wasn't. Instead, they were demanding that every dollar less they spent on pork for their farmers was matched by a dollar's worth of new access to developing country markets (and the dollars they were proposing to "sacrifice" weren't the important ones either). In other words, it was the same old scam of demanding a one-sided deal in which the rich get access to poorer nations' economies, while effectively giving up nothing in return. And faced with that sort of bullshit, I think the poor should simply walk away, just as they have done in the past. This time, though, it was the US that walked, rather than give an inch to the consensus the poorer nations had built.
The tragedy here is that the US has scuttled a deal that, while it did not promise anything near what it should have, poorer nations were at least broadly happy with and willing to build on. On the plus side, at least things didn't get any worse, and now we have an opportunity to start from scratch to build a truly fair trade deal, one that works for the poor, rather than just the rich.